I did the photoshoot. I had my hair and makeup done, did all the poses, tried on different clothes, and I thought I knew what it was about. Until I saw the finished product. That’s when I learnt what it really was about. And suddenly I can agree, this is not about Photoshop, this is partly about self-confidence, but actually, it is about something completely different.
Let’s rewind to the actual day.
Jo was there to welcome me at their studio in Bath and introduce me to Neill Menneer, who would be my photographer. Together we looked through some albums of previous photoshoots, to get an idea of what I was looking for. It still didn’t seem quite realistic that I could be the person in one of those pictures.
Looking through – and you can get inspiration on their website – I decided I wanted to play with perspective to quite literally see “myself from a different point of view”, and have one more traditional photo, to see how I feel about a professionally shot portrait (and as a fall back, should I lose my nerve and decide not to share boudoir photos on the world wide web).
Next step: hair and makeup with Harriet Gallon. This is where the smoky eyes, perfect lashes, glossy lips and sexy hair happens. Even without glasses on, I could tell it was better than anything I will ever achieve. Surprisingly though, it felt very much like me. Fancy, but not uncomfortable. What made the difference was that I didn’t feel dressed up or like I was in someone else’s role. The reflection in the mirror was just a different side of me.
Deep breath, now comes the tricky part: The actual pictures. If you are worried, Neill explained it to me a little like this: He works with lighting and composition and creates beautiful pictures, like art. You are in them, and therefore you will look beautiful.
The studio is set up in an old converted church so there is room for plenty of different set ups.
The first few steps take a bit of courage. Do I look stupid? Should I know what to do? Where am I supposed to look? Neill will tell you everything: From how to sit, where to lie, how to move your arms, your head, your eyes. After the first few trial shots, you just accept that it is an art that takes a special eye and years to understand and put you put your trust in him.
The lights move from bright to dark, you go from chaise longue to desk, grab a prop, choose some lace to cover the parts you don’t like or don’t want accentuated. You smile, close your eyes, change outfits, grab a hat, point your toes, look at the camera, look into the distance. With every shot it becomes a little easier and if you are lucky, you might get a little sneak peek on the preview window on the camera. You’re just looking at yourself in a different light, no Photoshop needed.
You leave feeling like you are on cloud nine, looking better than you ever have before and proud, knowing you went out of your comfort zone.
A week later it is time to view your pictures. My nerves were almost as bad as for the shoot. Emilie Giotto, the assistant studio manager and one of the photographers, has done several of those viewings – including her own – but for me; looking through a slideshow of pictures of me is not usually the thing I look forward to most.
And there they were: Around 50 pictures, exactly like I had seen them from other women, except with me in them. Some I hardly believed it was me, others I didn’t even remember having taken, but there they all were.
While I picked my favourites, one thought went through my mind: This is not about sharing it with everyone. While I will show them to some friends (and you, of course), it is not about running home and showing your family and colleagues. These pictures were for me. Not to show around or hide, but a memory for me, proof of what others can see, and the ace up my sleeve when my confidence is down.
In the end, it is about self-love. You can be confident, aware of your skills and abilities, healthy or not, but it is about loving yourself and being able to see why you can love yourself. I have pictures as a reminder now, next to other achievements I keep to remind myself of what I have to happy about.